What if ... peo­ple took pride in their prop­erty?

The Amherst News - - EDITORIAL - Sheila Gra­ham is a mem­ber of the Amherst News Com­mu­nity Ed­i­to­rial Panel.

My orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle was al­most fin­ished. Just a few lit­tle touches and it was ready to send off. But then it hap­pened. I saw it. Again. I knew that ar­ti­cle would have to take a back seat to this new ar­ti­cle. Rants should al­ways take prece­dence over logic.

When I com­plete the form, it will be the third time I have of­fi­cially con­tacted the town re­gard­ing a par­tic­u­lar un­sightly premises. Twice I have re­ceived a re­sponse, both of which go some­thing like this. ‘Blah, blah, blah, talked to the owner. Blah, blah, blah fix­ing it up. Blah, blah, and an­other blah for good luck so you’ll be­lieve my blah, blah’. To which I say bullpucky. I’m call­ing your bluff, home­owner. You have done noth­ing to fix your prop­erty…and you have no in­ten­tion of fix­ing up your prop­erty. And for rea­sons un­be­knownst to me the town is let­ting that go.

But, you know what, home­owner? You and your ilk are con­tribut­ing to the demise of this town. The town you have cho­sen to call home is crum­bling and you are play­ing a part in its demise. You and the other ir­re­spon­si­ble home­own­ers/land­lords are im­pact­ing on the fu­ture of this town — on whether peo­ple choose to move here, stay here, live here, visit here. So here’s my take. If you can’t af­ford the up­keep of a house, then don’t get one. You have no right to rent your home to some­one or to own a home if you are un­will­ing to work your fi­nances in such a way as to clean up your act. Lit­er­ally.

When I sub­mit my third re­port of dis­gust, I am fully pre­pared to re­ceive the same mean­ing­less re­sponse as I have re­ceived on both pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions. This town has one of two things - ei­ther a tooth­less mu­nic­i­pal un­sightly premises act or those re­spon­si­ble are un­will­ing to im­ple­ment it. That it should take years to make a home­owner im­prove their prop­erty to an ac­cept­able level tells me some­thing is wrong some­where. Look at all the peo­ple in the re­cently flooded hur­ri­cane ar­eas that would give their eye teeth to have a home. And what does Amherst have? Dozens of un­sightly premises. While the re­cent ini­tia­tive to cost share for some ar­eas is a good en­deav­our, I have trou­ble with com­pen­sat­ing land­lords by giv­ing a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive to peo­ple who are rent­ing out their spa­ces. Why should I, as a tax­payer, pay an in­come-re­ceiv­ing land­lord to fix up their prop­erty.

Here’s what I’d like to sug­gest to the mayor and coun­cil. How would it be if coun­cil were to im­ple­ment a ‘What if....’ ini­tia­tive. What if coun­cil said enough is enough. Let’s clean up this town. What if coun­cil de­ter­mined a ‘best be­fore’ date where a no­tice­able im­prove­ment must be ap­par­ent? What if coun­cil ac­knowl­edged the mu­nic­i­pal un­sightly premises di­rec­tive is not strong enough and took steps to amend it. What if coun­cil de­ter­mined who would ac­tu­ally be the main con­tact point on un­sightly premises and gave that per­son ma­jor lee­way in de­ci­sion-mak­ing. What if coun­cil said in the in­terim make a list­ing of what would be con­sid­ered an un­sightly premise and con­tact the owner ad­vis­ing a plan to fix or clean up. What if coun­cil said homes and busi­nesses in dis­re­pair will not be an ac­cept­able part of the Amherst land­scape any longer. What if coun­cil said we’ll clean up or de­mol­ish as much as we are legally en­ti­tled and add it to the tax bill of the owner. What if coun­cil made a prom­ise to clean up this town. I mean re­ally clean it up. What if by do­ing this, Amherst be­came known as a town where you don’t fool around with coun­cil if your ac­com­mo­da­tions are not up to par. What if it be­came the norm that res­i­dents could come to ex­pect a nice place to live and raise their fam­i­lies know­ing Coun­cil will sup­port such a strat­egy.

Some read­ers may in­stantly come to the de­fence of home­own­ers who have lim­ited mone­tary funds and to that I say an­other bull-pucky. Clean­ing up the yard, cut­ting the grass, en­sur­ing your drapes hang nicely, plant­ing a flower or two takes no money. My daugh­ter and I spent our first dozen years in a low in­come area of Win­nipeg (be­cause we had a low in­come) but no one would ever have ac­cused us of be­ing any­thing other than good res­i­dents in the neigh­bour­hood. We kept our yard clean and as apart­ment dwellers, cleaned that yard as well. Clean­li­ness doesn’t take money. You have to live some­where. Why not make it look good.

The way I look at it, if you want to live in a neigh­bour­hood, then be a neigh­bour. If the ap­pear­ance of where you live doesn’t mat­ter to you, then do us a favour and move else­where.

Amherst has no room for rot. Get with the pro­gram.

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